Monday, November 18th, 2019

Camilo, Shakira & Pedro Capó – Tutu (Remix)

So-so?


[Video]
[5.17]

Kayla Beardslee: Bubbles with lighthearted contentment and warm vocals. Then you look at the lyrics — at the cloyingly sweet bit in the chorus about snuggling, and at “If you leave me, I’m the needle/And you’re my voodoo doll” in the second verse — and the mood falls apart just a little bit.
[6]

Alfred Soto: These people are too old for this baby talk, not to mention this reggaeton beat. 
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: “Tutu” has reggaeton beats, but is a pop song at its heart, so Shakira makes perfect sense to join in on its remix. This shuffles along amiably, Shakira sounds great, Camilo’s a decent singer, and the chorus is sticky like taffy. 
[6]

Tobi Tella: Song aims for buoyant and fun, kiinda reaches it, but hook lands at annoying. Strange that such a distinguishable voice like Shakira’s can be so anonymous
[4]

Kylo Nocom: The original has more of Camilo’s adorable charm that this remix truncates and replaces with Shakira. “Tutu” is still worth swooning for, but this remix feels unnecessary, like a vote of no confidence on Camilo’s ability to sustain a hit by himself.
[6]

Isabel Cole: Pleasant and nicely constructed, with a languid playfulness to its melody that sells the easy coziness of the relationship described in the lyrics.
[5]

Monday, November 18th, 2019

Beck – Uneventful Days

Round here, we call them “Mondays”…


[Video]
[5.33]

Thomas Inskeep: Pretty minimal, almost chillwave track from Beck (and co-writer co-producer Pharrell) on which I wish Beck’s vocals weren’t so processed. I appreciate its low-key-ness, though; this understates.
[6]

Kylo Nocom: Beck’s nasal vocals are decidedly not appropriate for Architecture in Helsinki circa 2011 cuts filtered through 2019 trap. My generosity comes with how the appropriation of triplets and ad-libs feels more like an awkward enlightened dad’s pandering to the kids these days rather than just distilled cynical mush.
[5]

Isabel Cole: If I were to be very generous I might say something about how the repetition in the lyrics, made to sound even more monotonous through the slight uneventful/neverending assonance, brings home the dullness of a life suddenly missing its biggest spark, suggested by the spacious prettiness tinkling behind the droning vocals. But I am not a very generous person and this is not an interesting song.
[4]

Alfred Soto: Such a nice boy — he’s too good to sample these days, so in search of a “real musician” collaborator he goes to Pharrell, who might’ve brought the beats in the Obama era but rests on a trap something or other that Young Thug might’ve coughed on in five seconds. There’s the tragedy: imagine a Beck-produced Thug record. Better than this sincere midtempo smudge. 
[4]

Julian Axelrod: If I heard this blind, I’d probably write something about its engaging but conservative take on synth pop, the proudly stagnant circular melodies, the interesting shades of resignation in the singer’s voice. But of all the artists I could have compared it to, Beck probably wouldn’t have come up. Beck’s music has never sounded the same, even as it always sounds like Beck. So is he trying to situate himself within the remaining shreds of the rock scene? Or has everyone else finally caught up with him?
[6]

Kayla Beardslee: Reserved, like a day that was nothing more than “fine” (truly, my introvert self feels represented by this song), yet with a little bounce to its beat, like the plans you dream of making but would never want to commit to.
[7]

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

Readers’ Week 2019 (and more)

Dear readers,

When other sites go back over what they’ve (mostly) already covered and celebrate themselves with year-end lists and listicles, we celebrate ourselves by kicking ourselves over what we didn’t cover. And we want you to kick us as well (gently now), by which we mean that we want you to tell us about a great single from 2019 that we missed. Yes, Readers’ Week 2019 is soon to be upon us!

Email readersweek2019@thesinglesjukebox.com with your selection. Tell us why we should have covered it and (optionally, but strongly encouraged) submit a blurb of your own and a score out of ten so your opinion can be immortalised amongst our writers’ thoughts. It’ll be fun, promise. Get them into us by midnight at the end of Sunday, 24 November UTC. One choice per person, unless we really like you, in which case, go on, have two. (It’s okay, we really like you.) These will run early December.

But wait, there’s more! (more…)

Saturday, November 16th, 2019

Bonus Tracks for Week Ending November 16, 2019

We have new writing that we guarantee you will enjoy more than TSJ enjoyed Highly Suspect’s latest!

 

Saturday, November 16th, 2019

Luke Bryan – What She Wants Tonight

Today in “country singers with two first names”…


[Video][Website]
[4.43]

Isabel Cole: A paean to a wild child that has not a hint of wildness in it, but still fails to convince us that he is in fact the only thing she needs right now, coming across instead like a dude whose bros are exchanging concerned or skeptical looks behind his back. It made me nostalgic for when la chica loca roofied Ricky Martin; at least that song (1) committed to the bit, and (2) slapped.
[3]

Alfred Soto: “She snaps her fingers and a drink comes”? I’ll return my gay papers for the sake of dating this miracle worker. Seriously, though: that Bryan didn’t go full Dua Lipa disco is its cardinal offense.
[3]

Katie Gill: Even as someone who loves Luke Bryan’s cornball nonsense… this ain’t it, y’all. Yet again, we have another song that’s all “look at this amazing woman, I’ve got no idea why she loves me and my totally normal, less amazing self.” It’s pure wish fulfillment, which normally I’d be fine with (though really, mass culture has been “straight white men wish fulfillment” for the past how many years now?), but it’s pure wish fulfillment from a genre that just keeps giving us those same wishes regurgitated and wrapped up with a new bow on a new plate. Luke Bryan can and has done better than this.
[4]

Alex Clifton: I’m so mad because I’ve held a grudge against Bryan since “rain makes corn, corn makes whisky, whisky makes my baby feel a little frisky,” and yet this song doesn’t entirely suck! Bryan is awfully confident that he is what this girl wants (the video seems to disprove that theory in a delightful twist) but the confidence here sells the song rather than making it another arrogant anthem for dudes who think they’re God’s gift to all the women in the club. It sounds like he actually knows what she wants because he’s listened to her and is extremely pleased to be her target. It’s a low bar, but hearing a guy sing about actually letting a woman run the show with her own desires — especially in a song that’s got some smoulder like this one — is really hot.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: “She gets what she wants/And I get to be what she wants tonight” is a great lyric, and frankly, this kind of thing is Bryan’s métier. I also like that, where I might expect a song with this subject to be more of a slow-dance number, this is insistently uptempo country-rock. Bryan’s not the most creative superstar, but when he’s doing something this precisely in his wheelhouse, I’ve gotta say, he does it well.
[7]

Kylo Nocom: “She don’t take no and I love” is frustratingly missing a syllable (“it!”) and that ruins what would otherwise be fine, dumb fun.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: The track is predictably burly, the words less so. But the country market has a far lower tolerance for explicit lyrics than a song like “What She Wants Tonight” calls for; the result is a form of sexiness without the spirit, awkward “Shape of You” territory. But then again, given the lines that are here, i.e., “she don’t take no and I love it,” perhaps that’s for the best.
[5]

Friday, November 15th, 2019

Rosalía – A Palé

At least someone knows how to get a good score…


[Video][Website]
[7.14]

Oliver Maier: Rosalía’s sixth single of 2019 contains the most obvious traces of El Mal Querer‘s menacing DNA. Others from this year’s crop have placed a similar emphasis on repetition, but always as a means towards poppier ends, like the braggadocio of “Con Altura” or the infatuated flutter of “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mí”. “A Palé”, on the other hand, is a glitch labyrinth of dead ends, and the repetition is punishing above all else. Rosalíá’s voice is magnetic even when she raps in a languid croak, and the tension between her sinister coolness and the monolithic, bass-heavy surroundings is what keeps the whole affair from becoming either too sloppy or too static. Comparing anyone to Beyoncé feels trite, but I can think of few other pop dynamos who so consistently pull off the same feat, making the exceptional seem effortless and the straightforward seem superhuman.
[8]

Natasha Genet Avery: What’s made Rosalía’s victory lap so satisfying to watch is that she’s been unafraid to stray off course. “A Palé” follows her extremely successful dabbles in reggaeton, música urbana and Europop, and serves as a testament to her versatility. Over minimal, thunderous bass, Rosalía’s soft and measured delivery exudes nonchalance — the perfect posture for her Kawasaki, Saint Laurent and caviar flexes.
[7]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Collaborations with J Balvin and Ozuna are serviceable, but Rosalía shines best when solo. Part opera, part banger, and deeply odd at its core, “A Palé” is the definition of a show-stopper.
[9]

Ian Mathers: As the only one here who really liked that song she did with James Blake, of course I prefer the intro here to the (still very good!) rest of it.
[7]

Isabel Cole: I wish the warbling soprano at the beginning came back or else was indicative of a song interested in exploring that kind of contrast. The beat is good, the vibe unimpeachably cool, but I’m not compelled to play it again.
[6]

Kylo Nocom: Given that most of this song is muttered rapping, Rosalía is still losing sight of her most obvious strong suit: her voice. Frank Dukes and El Guincho load “A Palé” with handclaps and Yeezus screeches, almost enough to trick me into believing there’s more here than there is, but the runtime and hook suggest otherwise — like most of her singles this year.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: More flamenco than her last few singles, which is great. And this single’s better than great, it’s sensational. Expect a whole mass of flamenco-trap artists — something I never knew I needed before Rosalía, but now realize I do — over the next half-decade, and blame/thank Rosalía for all of ’em. That said, most won’t be as willfully weird as her, because she’s increasingly the Björk of Spanish-language music, turning this stuff into brilliant pop. Hearing her working together with both frequent collaborator El Guincho and Drake guy Frank Dukes on this is a wonder, the best of all sonic worlds. “A Palé” is delicate and bangs at the same time. 
[8]

Friday, November 15th, 2019

Arizona Zervas – Roxanne

The red light means stop…


[Video][Website]
[3.38]

Katherine St Asaph: The TikTok ecosystem seems maximally suited to spawning a meme-era “Roxanne’s Revenge,” right? If so, can we skip to it?
[2]

Kylo Nocom: TikTok has gone from a platform with the slightest (perhaps naively perceived) potential for the democratization of hitmaking into another hellscape of astroturfed, concerningly white mediocrity. One wonders why the biggest hits by non-established artists off TikTok nowadays aren’t from Flo Milli or Kaash Paige, but from bbno$, Ashnikko, Ant Saunders, and now Arizona Zervas. On an app which has a community criticized for many of its creators profiting off black content, it feels indicative of something rather gross that these are the artists that will be launched into relative “stardom.” “Roxanne” is the sound of post-Post Malone garbage spreading further, poised for the airplay that most actual rappers won’t get. His whines aren’t as evil as Blackbear’s, but more irritating in that they seem like negging. There’s no way to explain how this blew up organically because it’s too nondescript to justify its success based on pure merit or humor.
[3]

Natasha Genet Avery: Thematically, “Roxanne” is pretty empty — another misogy-lite riff on the rich girl diss track — but its accoutrements are lovely. The production is light and airy (“brr! brr!”), the melody is repetitive and immensely singable, and the line “shorty only like cocaine and whole foods” is a great second verse surprise. Much like its titular muse, “Roxanne” just wants to have fun.
[5]

Edward Okulicz: Dismissive? Yes. Sexist? Probably, I mean there are doofus fuckboys on Instagram too. But damned if this isn’t as sunny as Malibu (sorry, Maaaalibu), catchy enough to sing on a road trip (someone make a kid-friendly set of lyrics, seriously) and gross enough to be a real source of conflict. I keep thinking about this song, and how guilty I feel for liking it, which means it’s doing something right.
[8]

Oliver Maier: Zervas’ boyish voice and the sweetly infectious hook melody would be better suited to bashful infatuation than another entry into the canon of condescending odes to a party girl who Definitely Exists. “She keep comin’ back though / Only ’cause I pay her” does not make her sound like the desperate one in this scenario! Passably pleasant if you ignore that lyric and pretty much every single other one, and it’s hard not to get toothache from those guitars.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: This new rapper is white, heavily Auto-Tuned, and clearly wants to be the new Post Malone. I ain’t got time for that.
[0]

Alfred Soto: Party slobber sung and rapped with vehemence if not skill. In tracks like this, who’s using whom, who’s most adept at boasting about bad behavior and spending Daddy’s money — these questions assume an ontological importance. 
[3]

Isabel Cole: More straightforwardly rude and therefore maybe less condescending than The Police, nowhere near as fun as the second-best scene in Moulin Rouge!
[3]

Friday, November 15th, 2019

Highly Suspect – 16

It took us almost sixteen years to find it: our lowest rated song yet.


[Video][Website]
[0.33]

Ian Mathers: One of the things I love most about TSJ, and value the most personally, is the constant reminder it is, year in and year out, of the wonder and glory of pop music. The dark twin of that wonderful quality is that it reminds me with just about equal frequency and intensity that plenty of pop music is just dreadful crap. The fun of the world, of course, is that we all do our own sorting. 
[0]

Kylo Nocom: Active rock radio fosters its own ridiculously insular universe to the point where most publications don’t seem interested in covering newer acts at all unless they can take easy shots at them, à la Greta Van Fleet. These bands are never going to hit pop airplay and aren’t typically congruent with the tastes of most indie rock writers, so the only situations most people are likely to make contact with them are Grammy nominations season and specially catered alternative publications. The fans exist, though; it’s just that nobody that reads Loudwire likely cares to see what anybody else is saying from the outside. That myopia is where the problem lies: “16” hasn’t been called out for being the flagrantly evil garbage that it is because this group’s audience is comprised of none of the people that would be harmed by this. Now, this is horrid enough to skip if you were flipping through radio channels just on sound alone, a “7 Years” style take on the end of a relationship complete with faux-soul yarl. The holy choirs and plucked strings evoke a band foraging for the last scraps of Alex da Kid, self-importance held above all in condescending fashion. But even if that wasn’t enough to make this abomination a miserable experience, then Johnny Stevens repeating fucking red pilled propaganda should. For all his moans of “oh, God,” for every forced desperate enunciation in self-victimized drama, Stevens still exposes himself as a misanthropic rat by leveraging sex against his ex in the first verse. “Remember all the nasty shit you used to do with me” is not a remembrance of “puppy love” more so than a manipulative attack on his target and a shit-eating grin shown to his friends — really, his sympathetic listeners — about how disgustingly freaky his ex is in bed. Most of what follows revels in Stevens’s own audible disdain, lyrically dull filler meant to lead up to the second verse and what is likely the most morally bankrupt minute of the year. You see, his girlfriend is cheating on him, which is understandably awful. The revelation isn’t hinged on that, though. The big twist, the dramatic reveal, the fucking punchline, is that his girlfriend is cheating on him with a black guy. Playing into the stereotype of cuckolding in 2019 carries obvious, knowing implications: either Highly Suspect are aware of its usage in alt-right circles and willingly play off that, or they’re simply dense enough to believe this is clever. Either way, the fans don’t seem to mind at all. Take a gander in the comments and notice folks that “wonder how she felt when she heard this song the first time” and display hurt for him not getting cheated on but getting “cucked by a black guy.” I don’t expect all critics to suddenly become experts on Kerrang! fodder, but when a song as overtly malicious as this is allowed to prosper to nobody’s chagrin, an audience whose tastes are rooted in “real music” conservatism will further confirm their own terrible real-world politics. At least never let these guys collaborate with Young Thug again.
[0]

Isabel Cole: Aurally repulsive AND self-pitying, I hated this way before I picked up on the cringe-inducing “I’m not a brother” line. And it just won’t end!
[1]

Alfred Soto: I suppose “16” works as a “character study,” only the elements that the aptly named Highly Suspect marshal on its behalf cohere into a song of startling ugliness: the strings; the haranguing vocal that won’t shut up about babies he didn’t make and, worse, about the innocent puppy love that his girlfriend destroyed by acting like a sentient person; the length. But a market exists for this shit, and this market probably voted for Clinton in 2016.
[0]

Oliver Maier: Ignorant, lowest common denominator dreck. Let us pretend for a moment that the second verse is not a display of both shockingly incompetent penmanship and racist paranoia. Let us pretend that the first verse hardly fares better even without him referring to himself as “not a brother”. This would still barely scrape a [1], an excruciating four and a half minutes spent listening to a guy who thinks that the best way of communicating soulfulness is to break out the Kings of Leon vocals over what I’m tempted to snidely call a Moby deep cut, if that didn’t feel like an insult to Moby. I sincerely cannot find a single thing to redeem this.
[0]

Will Adams: “Where did I go wrong?” wails Johnny Stevens. Well, since you asked: 1) Those cheap-as-free choirs and strings. I know East West samples can be expensive, but they offer month-to-month subscriptions now. You can use something that’s not GarageBand. 2) Outlining the timeline of this relationship so haphazardly that the line “you were only 17” horrifyingly appears in the same verse as “do you remember all of the nasty shit you used to do with me.” 3) The Maury twist in the second verse, which, assuming this actually happened, probably should beget emotions stronger than “that puppy love is over.” 4) “Baby’s a different color.” Um. 5) “Baby I’m not a brother.” Dude. 6) That awkward fade-out. 7) Making “7 Years” sound competent by comparison. 8) Not making your song shitty enough to have 16 ways you went wrong, because that would have been a commendable level of commitment.
[1]

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

India Arie – Steady Love

Natasha’s is steady hate…


[Video]
[5.86]
Natasha Genet Avery: Acoustic guitar, snaps, cajon, two-part harmony–this belongs on a Starbucks-playlist, tuned out by employees and ignored by headphone-clad patrons. And rightfully so, since “Steady Love” goes from milquetoast to actively terrible upon a closer listen. Arie’s lyrics range from the grammatically questionable (“I have never met a man that I wanted to be his wife?”), to the laughably generic (her beau is a “good father” and “good cook” who likes sports-ball). She even manages to botch an “in the sheets/in the streets” joke, forgetting that the formula relies on contrast. A song this sloppy deserves to be drowned out by a whirring espresso machine.
[2]

Nortey Dowuona: A warm, drifting guitar nestles atop a low, simmering bass with an open, slow drum pattern as organ stitched around them with piano on the other side, with India’s husky, raspy growl is full of warmth and humor, a gentle, soothing swath of honeyed soul.
[10]

Alfred Soto: “Steady” is right. Singing platitudes as if she discovered them last night, India Arie regards her man with an attention he returns and then some. The acoustic bass mirrors her jittery heart, pluck by pluck.
[7]

Kylo Nocom: “Steady Love” is written entirely around the delivery of a silly faux-risqué gender reversal of the “lady in the streets/freak in the sheets” meme. In lieu of having actual grit, India.Arie’s maturity is just endearing, and “Steady Love” is the sound of somebody that has settled down well in later adulthood. Just don’t listen to the track on the album after this.
[5]

William John: Some might say the list of qualities in Arie’s paramour provided here aren’t exciting enough to merit much of a hullabaloo. But, frankly, if I had any singing talent at all and had met this quixotic someone that was a good cook and liked to read and was into sports and wasn’t afraid of their feelings AND “touched my soul” AND was a “king in the sheets”, then I’d be turning up the volume and going up at least an octave.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: “Steady Love” is steady grown folks’ R&B. It’s not exciting, it’s not hip, but it is steady, and solid.
[6]

Isabel Cole: A beautiful sentiment convincingly conveyed and competently executed. Nothing wrong here, but nothing that grabs me, either.
[6]

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Poppy – Bloodmoney

Is she still poppy?


[Video]
[4.27]

Ian Mathers: I’m sorry, did we need an “edgy”, pop-metal Grimes? 
[3]

Alex Clifton: I have never wanted to hear the Kidz Bop version of a song more in my life.
[3]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: 13 year old me would have loved “Bloodmoney” for its sheer abrasiveness, and loved Poppy for trolling everyone by making a mockery of the “robot girl” trope in pop music. (Watch this interview and tell me she’s not having a hard time staying in character.) I’m in my 20s now though, and this is just grating. 
[4]

Kylo Nocom: The project surrounding Poppy remains as empty in subtlety as it always has been. “Bloodmoney” is, thankfully, less committed to her trite “pop chorus/scary metal verses” formula and instead finds a nice little Sleigh Bells-sized niche, a more consistent rush than what she’s been delivering for years. But the clunker of “Jesus the Christ” exposes this as yet more novelty, if one that Poppy is eager to embrace with increasing sincerity. The same issue here is that of “Only Acting” from last year: once the shock wears off, where’s the song?
[5]

Katie Gill: This is Poppy doubling down on everything that didn’t work for “Play Destroy.” This is Poppy going “no guys, I’m DEEP now, I’m using cross imagery!” This is Poppy taking a look at Billie Eilish’s genre shift to Hot Topic-core and going “huh, you know what, I can top that.” She’s certainly making a statement about something, and considering that Poppy’s career has been one long shitpost, the jury’s still out on if she actually believes whatever statement she’s attempting to make. At least for me, that statement is ‘Poppy needs to fire her sound mixer.’
[2]

Natasha Genet Avery: It’s hard to believe that Poppy and Sinclair have been working on a ~critique of fame in the internet age~ for 6+ years and the hottest take they can muster is “what do you believe when no one is around?” “Bloodmoney” uses metal signifiers (occult album art! Screaming! distortion! Christian symbolism!) as a smokescreen for the vacuousness of its “if a tree falls” stoner philosophizing. I’m bored.
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: What, and I mean this in the most admiring way, the unadulterated fuck is this? “Bloodmoney” is crass and cringe and colossal, and sounds like nothing and everything else. Obviously in the hopper there’s Sleigh Bells and Grimes and Marilyn Manson and Depeche Mode (the “grabbing hands” line), but I also hear Katie Gately (particularly “Tuck”), EMA, “Naughty Girl,” Digital Daggers and everyone who sounds like Digital Daggers, rock as extrapolated from “Stronger,” rock as extrapolated from Charli XCX had she followed up “Nuclear Seasons” with more “Nuclear Seasons” rather than dancepop for hypebeasts, Stand Alone Complex, Kay Hanley (the way Poppy’s voice breaks after each line of the outro) that half-a-year in 2013 where everything had dubstep breaks, Jesus Christ Superstar as adapted by 100 Gecs because why not? This is a vivid, crucial part of my musical taste, it all rules, and it rules even more when it intersects with currently popular artists. (The fact that I’m giving “Bloodmoney” an [8] despite Poppy’s career growing rapidly less cosignable by the month is probably one of those things I believe when nobody is watching.)
[8]

Alfred Soto: Kings of Leon, you’ve got competition in the riff department. As subtle as a cinder block, “Bloodmoney” squeezes and stretches the guitars and Poppy without much danger of coalescing. First impressions matter. 
[6]

Edward Okulicz: The first two minutes of “Bloodmoney” are, honestly, atrocious. Poppy’s metal gimmick not only fails to paper over the lack of songcraft on offer, it actually exacerbates how there’s nothing going on here. Yet the music is still less abrasive than her screeching vocals. Then something weird happens: the last minute has a monstrous guitar solo that is actually pretty great, and the repeated “what do you believe, when no-one is around” to close is a weird mix of mocking, accusatory and defeated that suggests Poppy might be more than a post-modern musical troll milking a bad idea. Broken clocks, you know.
[3]

Will Adams: After spending the past year grinding her gimmick of “wow isn’t it interesting how the chorus is all metal while the verse is twee???” six feet below the dirt, Poppy actually releases something that sounds great: grinding and shrieking and stomping industrial, something that could fit on the Year Zero remix album. The lyrics, as usual, say less than they think, asking probing questions and gesturing vaguely (it’s telling that the most evocative line is a Depeche Mode quote). But the gripping arrangement says plenty by itself.
[6]

Isabel Cole: Very nice to know eighth graders still have new music to score their trips to Hot Topic. For adults, there are two lines of a nice enough refrain here, a hint of menace prettily sung, and I even sort of appreciate in its dumb brashness the shouty bit, even though I have no idea what we’re to make of “beg for forgiveness from Jesus to Christ.” Then the squelching starts.
[4]